POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — In Polk County, The Florida Children’s Museum is creating a fun place for kids to play and take a risk every now and then.
Chelsea Smith takes her kids, Apollo and Tatum to the museum quite often, and these days they are really enjoying the latest attraction.
You can’t miss the new play area. It’s big and yellow and shaped like an alligator, affectionately named Blinky. Lifelong Lakelanders may be reminded of a legend in Lakeland folklore when visiting.
Blinky, the real alligator, had one eye and lived in Lake Mirror in the 1970s. Pictures of him surround the play area, showing him roaming around the city.
He became quite popular both with locals and tourists.
“There was one man in particular who would feed him hamburgers and kiss him on the nose,” says Kerry Falwell, CEO of the Florida Children’s Museum. “People started to flock to Lakeland to find the alligator you can kiss.”
Quite the risk — which is ironic because this play area is built to help kids take risks.
“We’ve taken risk out of play, so this is intentional to put kids in a position where they have to make a choice. Am I willing to do this, am I not, is a little scary, can I take a deep breath and move forward,” Falwell said.
Chelsea Smith takes her two kids to the museum quite often and says they are really enjoying Blinky’s play area.
“My youngest, he’s the risk taker,” she said. “It’s nice because there are padded floors so he can jump and it’s safe for him to land on.”
Studies have shown Polk County to have a high obesity rate in the state, and designers also kept that in mind.
“We really wanted to be intentional to give a lot of space for healthy active play,” Falwell said.
By taking healthy risks and breaking a sweat, kids can really use their imagination playing on the giant alligator — which makes it tough for them to say see ya later!
For the museum hours and admission prices, click here.